Bowlers in row with Strawberry Gardens pub at Fleetwood over rent demands

A long-established bowling club in Fleetwood says it has been hit with a rent demand that it cannot afford and fears for its future.

By Richard Hunt
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 12:30 pm

The Strawberry Gardens Bowling Club has been told it needs to pay an annual rent of £5,200 – or £100 a week - as from April 1 this year.

The club is based behind the popular Strawberry Gardens pub, on Poulton Road, but is run separately from the licensed premises from which it takes its name.

Club chairman Dave Walters says the bowling club is 177 years old and part of Fleetwood’s heritage but now he fears for its future in light of demands being made by the leaseholder of the land, the pub operators.

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Chairman Dave Walters and Secretary Kath Donnelly at Strawberry Gardens bowling club which has been hit by new annual rent. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

However, Dave Shaw, who runs the pub with wife Maureen, says it is only fair that the bowling club makes some contribution for its use of the land and he says it amounts to just £1.42 per club member a week – which he says is “less than half a pint”.

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The bowling club, which has several teams and runs a major annual tournament each summer, received a £75,000 grant from Sport England eight years ago for an impressive new £106,000 clubhouse which opened in 2016, with the extra funds paid for by local businesses.

Dave Walters said: “The leaseholder really dropped a bombshell on the club, by demanding this annual rent, starting this April.

The club house at Strawberry Gardens Bowling Club in Fleetwood. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“We are a non-profit making organisation and we manage our responsibilities of running the club and maintaining the green mostly from member's annual and weekly subscriptions.

"We just cannot afford this extra rent demand.

“After discussions with the landowners and pub landlord, the outcome was to pay the rent otherwise we would have to leave.

"We are at a loss what to do next, as we have explored every avenue, including legal advice.

Dave Shaw, landlord of the Strawberry Gardens pub, Fleetwood.

“After the efforts of the past eight years to rebuild the club and surrounding areas to its present immaculate condition, it would be a shame for the community to lose these bowling facilities and a sport that is enjoyed by local people of all ages and bowlers from the surrounding areas.”

But Dave Shaw, who leases the pub from landowner Jim Parr, said the rent issues had first been broached last year, without anything being done about it.

He said: “The land owner expects the pub to receive contributions from the bowling club for the overall rent of the site.

"The bowlers have paid nothing during the 11 years I have been here, even though they use things like water amenities.

"Other bowling clubs in similar situations pay a similar amount.

"I worked out that £200 a week would be fair but I have been prepared to half that to £100.

"I like bowling and I don’t want to lose the club, we don’t want to get rid of it.

“There are 70 club members and if they pay just £1.42 a week they could afford it, that is less than a half a pint a week.

"People should expect to pay something for their hobbies.”